Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney addressed the media on Tuesday to discuss the upcoming matchup with Syracuse. As the second-ranked Tigers enter the month of November, Swinney stressed the importance of the remainder of the season.
Here is what we heard:
Swinney is glad to be sitting undefeated at the start of what he considers Clemson’s “championship phase,” but there is an even greater demand for focus in the final stretch.
“You do all of that work, and now over the next 20 something days we have a chance to clinch a division title, opportunity for a state championship, play our way into an ACC Championship, win an ACC Championship and then you are in position for a playoff opportunity,” Swinney said. “There is a lot at stake here. There is a lot. Again, it is about playing our best football and applying the lessons we have learned to this point. It is a mad dash to the finish line.”
On Tuesday evening, The College Football Playoff Committee ranked Clemson second in the first set of Playoff rankings. Before the rankings came out, Swinney said those rankings would not matter if Clemson went on and lost on Saturday.
“We just have to take care of business. Let’s just find a way to get to 9-0,” Swinney said. “If we can take care of business, then in late November and December, they matter.”
However, some players say it is hard to entirely tune out the excitement of the first releasing of the College Football Playoff polls. Defensive end Christian Wilkins said he would definitely be paying attention Tuesday evening, but that it would have no impact on the way he plays the game.
“I have no choice but to pay attention to it. There’s no way to really avoid it but it doesn’t really mean anything to me after a big game. Can’t really pay attention to it just keep playing every game,” Wilkins said.
The Tigers (8-0, 5-0 ACC) are excited to be back in the Valley after a tough challenge on the road, but this Saturday will be even more special as Clemson honors the military with their annual Military Appreciation Game.
“We play in Memorial Stadium. We have the scroll of honor across the street,” Swinney said. “It is not just Military Appreciation Day at Clemson, it is deep.”
Wide receiver Hunter Renfrow said there is a different feeling about the games this year than there was last year due to the expectations people have for Clemson’s success in comparison to last season.
“Every season is a different season. Every game seems like a season of it’s own. Last year everyone was doubting us every game and this year it’s different. Every game still feels different though.”
Another difference that has been noted is the approach to special teams coverage. Linebacker Chad Smith said that the mindset has changed, and it has lead to a major increase in productivity and success.
“You have to have a mindset that you’re just going to go down there and blow up something,” Smith said. “That’s what a lot of the guys on the team have, and I’m just glad I was able to have that job. I’m looking forward to being on that team next year and hopefully years to come.”
Defensive coordinator Brent Venables said the effort players put into their opportunities to play on special teams shows a lot about their potential to play in their other roles, and Smith is no exception.
“I think the experience playing and having success on special teams has really expedited his development,” Venables said. “You’re really seeing it, and a lot of times it’s not so profound, particularly during the middle of the season. But it’s extremely profound, and that says a lot to me.”